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Co-sleeping

Un bien-être pour bébé et maman !

A wonderful feeling for mommy and baby!
Many years ago, it was normal for all babies to sleep with their mothers.
 The practice began changing with the rise of industrialization and, especially in 13th century Europe, on the advice of Catholic priests who feared that a mother sleeping with her male baby would have too much of a female influence.

After the Industrial Revolution, a new school of thought discouraged moms from carrying their babies too much because it might turn them into overindulged children.

Babies have never become more distanced from their mothers than in industrialized countries over the course of the 20th century. And with deliveries taking place in hospitals to prevent infection, as soon as babies are born they are put all alone in a crib and cannot sleep next to their mom. Breastfeeding also declined as baby formulas came on the market.

When you breastfeed your baby, you are producing hormones like oxytocin and prolactin that generate a strong urge to be physically close to your baby.

These ideas were thus passed down from generation to generation, and became part of the collective consciousness. You must be extremely strong mentally to break from these traditions, and confront these outdated concepts.

Thanks to advances in neuroscience and the use of MRI technology to study the brain’s reactions to various situations, we now know that babies need to be close to their mothers in the first few months of life. Babies are born with a pretty elevated level of the stress hormone called cortisol, which has been measured in the saliva of newborns. If babies are comforted during this time, their cortisol level only begins to decrease around the age of three months.

Over the last few years, pediatricians, child psychiatrists, psychologists and psychoanalysts have conducted countless studies, and have been spreading this information. We are slowly seeing the return of co-sleeping practices, which are much more common in Scandinavia, Asia, and Africa.

Researchers also assert that babies have a crucial need for physical contact in the first years of life. Feeling comforted and safe in order to develop in a healthy way requires that babies fall asleep feeling body warmth.

This is not what most of us learned growing up, and that’s why it’s hard to understand. 

It would be great to use your pregnancy as a chance to ask yourself a few key questions, and then figure out how best to deal with your emotions and feelings when the baby arrives.

Here are some tips for women who want to co-sleep with their baby:

Depending on your personal feelings toward co-sleeping with your baby, there are several options:

  • Lay your baby alongside you by placing their head on your chest with their body between your breasts. This keeps them warm on their tummy with their head to one side and wedged between your breasts. Pull the covers up to their bottom or lower back, but not any higher so they don’t get fully covered.
  • Put a little bed next to your bed just for co-sleeping so you can lay your baby down on their back. Place your hand on their tummy, hand, and arm while they sleep so they feel your physical closeness.
  • Put a small mattress with raised edges (just for co-sleeping) in the middle of your bed. They are close to you but you feel safer.

Here are some safety rules to follow when keeping your baby in bed with you:

  • Never take any medication or drugs that may affect your sleep.
  • Never smoke in the room where a newborn sleeps.
  • Use a firm mattress and avoid puffy comforters.
  • Make sure there is no way your baby can fall off the bed.
  • Ensure there is no room between the bed and the wall.
  • Never put an infant on a pillow.
  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back.
  • Do not sleep with your baby if you are obese.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back.
  • Do not have other children or pets in the bed with your baby.
  • Do not have any hanging strings or wires near your baby. 
  • Do not leave your baby alone in an adult bed.

You can find all my advice on co-sleeping and safety in my book Votre guide pour une grossesse rassurée ! (in French) L’histoire de votre bébé commence dès la grossesse.

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